The National Extension Relationship & Marriage Education Network (NERMEN) is comprised of researchers and practitioners who utilize their research findings to better inform the effectiveness of relationship and marriage education programs. NERMEN has compiled a model of seven principles that are validated predictors of relationship quality and stability: Choose, Care for Self, Know, Care, Share, Manage, and Connect. Over the next several weeks we will be describing each of the core principles on our blog. Today we will be talking about the Choose principle.
As the central component of the National Extension Relationship & Marriage Education Model (NERMEM), “Choose refers to deliberate and conscious decisions that help to create and strengthen healthy relationships”. Below is what Choosing looks like in healthy relationships:
- Being intentional: Deciding, not sliding
Much like a ship without a captain, couples sometimes navigate their relationships with little to no direction of where they want their relationship destination to be. Healthy relationships involve couples making conscious decisions about the future of their relationship. For example, couples can “slide” into moving in together by keeping their things at each other’s homes and then moving in because the majority of their things are there anyways. However, deciding to move in together means both partners consciously discuss why they want to live together, the pros and cons, and communicate these ideas to their partner.
- Committing effort to the relationship
One way of showing you are committed to your relationship is to show your dedication. Dedication means having loyalty to your partner. A great way of showing commitment is by prioritizing your relationship and choosing to find ways to enhance your relationship such as going on dates, weekend vacations, or spending time together.
- Focusing on each other’s strengths
All couples face challenges and differences within their relationship, but the important factor here is the approach that couples take when this occurs. Rather than criticizing each other, couples should choose to focus on each other’s strengths and redeeming qualities. One way you can try this is by using the “yes, but” statements. For example, “yes, he didn’t start dinner, but he wasn’t feeling well today.” Couples who practice focusing on their partner’s strengths and minimize the attention that they give to faults tend to be more satisfied in their relationship.
- Avoiding hurtful thoughts and behaviors
Hurtful communication (e.g., withdrawing, over-criticizing) and behaviors (e.g., drug/alcohol abuse, lying to your partner) are damaging to each partner’s well-being and the relationship overall. It is important for couples to set boundaries on what behaviors are and are not acceptable. When couples establish healthy guidelines for communication and engage in positive relationship behavior patterns, they often report greater relationship satisfaction and well-being.
- Finding ways to strengthen and grow the relationship
Couples can be intentional about growing their relationship by seeking out resources that can improve it. Resources could be attending couple counseling or attending one of our relationship education workshops. Strengthening and growing the relationship also means making time for the relationship. Spending quality time together has been reported to reduce the likelihood of getting a divorce and showed increased relationship satisfaction and marital happiness. Thus, spending quality time together as a couple can help to strengthen and grow the relationship.
- Envisioning a healthy relationship and future together
Individuals are encouraged to make assurances, which are statements or behaviors that imply that the relationship has a future. For example, planning a trip for next year or signing both names to a lease are ways to make you and your partner feel secure in your relationship and your future together.
As you can see, the main point of the Choose principle is for you to choose to say and behave in manners that will show your partner you are committed to the relationship and to continuously find ways to strengthen it. Even healthy relationships have challenges and disagreements, so during those times it is important to have a strong relationship to fall back on.